The Shadow of 68 – Fifty Year Reflection

This poetry project explores the links between 2018 and 1968. Based on Stendhal’s notion of writing twenty lines a day, the poems focus on specific events from 1968 and how they colour our perspective of today. With nuclear proliferation, continuing international conflict, troubled race relations and political scandal, have we really come that far in fifty years?


January 1 1968


The midnight skies were alive with ordnance

and each flare, that flew and blew bright shards out

across the ink’s black, spoke of decadence.

A dance of decades past to cordite shouts.


From the houses all around the sound played

a tattoo of half wondered reverence

as each snare beat and beat and ricocheted.

The brand-new year in all its imminence.


And beneath the alien studded sky,

alone, the lonely dream of lost romance.

The past makes a fitting fire-snapped reply,

leaving memory as sole recompense.


Hearing that bright moment – so long delayed –

just as the night’s fireworks work their echoes,

Narcissus’ Echo finally fades

and fifty years amounts to fifty woes.


Each intervening year that ushered hope

started much like the firework bedazzled

night. In the silent seconds, strung like rope

between the bouncing blasts, we reach for peace.






January 2 1968


The evergreen hedges of Laurel that

guard the gardens of workers, who are told

that they have something to guard and covet,

are laced with festive lights that linger bold


against the cold redundant winter nights.

Commuting, a working man stops his car –

he can stop anywhere; he knows his rights –

at the end of the hedges and looks far


across the vast unyielding frosted fields

as the red sun breaches the defensive

horizon of the east and so he feels

all at once: humbled, burdened and pensive.


His collar turned up against morning cold,

He watches the clouds turn from dark crimson,

to livid blood, to cerise, then to gold.

The day ahead, his crown of laurels on


his head, and beyond the field, copse and hedge,

beyond the grouse and pheasant and the plough,

the magnetic mountain forms the blunt edge

solidarity for his fellow man.






January 3rd 2018


Nurse! Nurse! Nurse? Where the hell are you now that

the proverbial stool sample has hit

the proverbial fan. Quick, check the stats!

Down. Down. It seems that we are only fit


for another crisis. This one’s in bad

shape. I do not think she will even make

it as a bed blocker. It drives me mad

to know of all the good we have at stake.


Amputate from the neck up. Ha! The old

ones, nurse, are the best and seventy years

is pretty old. Take two fingers, here, hold

them down there to take the pressure off. Fears


stick deep where sticking plasters fail to stay.

What’s this? A sign? Do not resuscitate.

By Jove! Some quack has used a tourniquet

around the patient’s neck to strangulate


all good intention. A word to the wise.

They’ve used a newspaper to cauterise

all that’s left behind of the patient’s eyes.

Plan for the crisis then apologise.






January 4th 2018


Beyond the magnetic mountain but in

its shadow, two pebbles, each pockmarked with

hate and heat, rolled downhill, racing to win

a place at the bottom.  Neither to live


in the shadow of their foe, so they bounced

to eclipse each other and struggle for

the light. But neither pebble could win nor

reach the glimmering height for which they pounced.


Instead they just raised dust so caustic and

so foul, ground from grated pumice, just-cooled

lava that scarifies the eyes of fools,

corrupts the lungs and coats the mouth with sand.


If each had hands then each would strangle stone,

oblivious to all that they had done.

Both pebbles issued from their aged lips

that they were rebels. Upstarts. Right. Eclipsed,


the red dawn that the worker once saw on

the other side has now completely gone.

Diminished and reduced, instead, to a

flash in the darkness followed by nothing.






January 5 1968


The mother, proud but post-natal, tired and torn,

sat at the side of the white jailhouse cowboy cot

and sighed a stifled smile for her infant newborn.

The father was out, celebrating his white hot


virility with good scotch and better wishes.

Alone, at home, the new mother was not to know

that simple fear for the future diminishes

us all. How, in time, will her newborn baby grow?


Will he be a cowboy with a calcium spur,

brittle, SANE, fit for office, and medically

exempt from the poor’s selective service, yes sir,

but, no, not exempt from golf? Momentarily,


the mother looks at the book, Baby and Child Care.

Despite her well stuck fears, she knows that she knows best

and the justification will be found right there

on page sixty-eight. Spock spoke for the dispossessed


one hundred, two hundred or five hundred thousand.

With no force, and no violence but otherwise

the permissive men and women across the land

proved just too pampered to permit their own demise.






January 6 1968


We’re all going on a charabanc tour

to Blackpool, la, to see the lights and more

and more and more and more of the same. Sure

feels a million miles away from war.


We can dance just like our mothers before

us and trip the light fantastic. The four

of us and you falling through the stage door

and dancing ballroom boredom round the floor.


Fook! No. This one looks like the boy next door

type, all suited up like a matador

or prince charming flinging round his macaw

of a dance partner. Mam calls her a whore


‘cause Da is watching like he’s got lockjaw.

All this just twenty meters form the shore

that laps the sand to sleep.  You’ve aged three score

and ten just sitting, waiting for the draw


to pick your lucky number. String vests, flat

caps and southern bowler hats, nothing is real.

We’re all going on a charabanc tour

or perhaps we’ll take a trip instead.






7 January 1968


With chores and roasts and newspapers behind

us. The night draws in and sketches a blurred

picture of Monday morning. We turn blind

eyes to work and utter four letter words


for freedom and its lack, for waking so

early that we beat the dawn to its place,

and bleary eyed and half awake we go

to earn crusts. Your Sunday evening face


can’t hide the horror of what lies ahead.

We don’t talk, or laugh or smile. We just reach

for the listings, turn on the tube instead.

There, in glorious monochrome, we each


turn the dial, looking for something that

will make us smile or at least not just feel

as bad as knowing tomorrow’s diktat

of an alarm awaits us with its creel


to catch the dreams we’d not had time to live.

We slow the evening by not talking.

Twice five is ten. Twice as much just to watch

the same but only not in monochrome.